Like angry wasps against a window

It is astonishingly rare for a paradigm shift to be triggered from outwith the scientific community, and it’s not hard to see why: in almost all cases, no matter how much amateur theorists may batter against the wall of scientific indifference—like angry wasps against a window—the reason their theory is not being taken seriously is that it has fundamental flaws that are immediately obvious to anyone with even just a modicum of extra knowledge that the amateur does not possess.  It’s no real wonder that amateur theorists often feel themselves persecuted by the “lords of ivory-towered academia”, or whatever—a regrettable situation to which there seems no easy solution: as noted above, scientists have limited amounts of time they can spend dissecting each and every new hypothesis that to them is quite patently nonsense.

John Grant, Discarded Science

Eighteen Panel Skirt

Stylish Skirts by Sato Watanabe
Stylish Skirts by Sato Watanabe. Look at the prettiness!

I was walking through my local Jo-Ann Fabric store a couple of months ago when was seized with a fiery passion of the sort that overcomes a baron for the new stable boy.   Usually it’s a piece of embroidered linen that stirs my creative lust.  This time it was a skirt.  More specifically, the panel skirt show on the cover of Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure.

Just look at it over there, all stripy and swishy, with french seams!  Now, that skirt is swoon-worthy on its own, but my mind was going off into another direction.  I had, buried in my stash of fabric, several yards of soft, knit fabric in three colors: grey, heathery-purple, and a smokey-blue.  They had been sitting in a cardboard file box for years, waiting for the time when I would get around to making them into something awesome.  Well, their time had come.

It has been years since I’ve made any clothing for myself.  Which is funny as I originally got into sewing for just that reason.  So, it was with a lot of giddiness, trepidation, and wine, that I set out this past weekend to make myself a new skirt.  The skirt started off very close to the original pattern, which is where I ran into the first obstacle.  Stylish Skirts is translated from Japanese, and there are some glitches in the transition. Fortunately there’s the internet, and I wasn’t the first person to run into problems.

Creating the pattern took about half an hour once I figured out the issue.  I didn’t take into account any changes to the pattern with regards to using a knit fabric.  I drafted it to my waist and hip measurements, and drew it much longer than the book calls for.  I like long skirts.  I don’t care if they’re not supposed to look good on short girls.

Skirt Panel Pieces
Skirt panel pieces, assemble!

The actual cutting out of the pieces took an hour or so, due to the fact that I wasn’t working with intact yardage.  At some point in the past I had cut out two one-piece tunic style dresses for Charlotte out of the blue and purple fabrics.  As such I had to take some extra care to get it all cut out.  Even so, I ended up with only four panels of the blue, six of the purple and then ten of the grey.  The original pattern calls for six of each, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me.

Sewing the skirt together took a couple of hours.  The original pattern calls for a zipper closure, but because I was using knits my plan was for an elasticized waistband.  Remember how I drafted the pattern as suggested by the book?  That didn’t take into account the need for the waist to fit over my hips with an elastic waist.  So when I sewed the panels together I dropped the seam allowance down to 3/8″ of an inch, which gave me the necessary room.

I gave the hem a rolled edge because I was tired of sewing by then, and also I didn’t want to sacrifice any of the length.  (Did I mention I like long skirts?)  The resulting skirt is soft and swishy.  I have to kick the hem out of the way when I walk, or pull it up—a bonus in my book.  I have been twirling around the house in it for a few days making little noises of happiness and satisfaction.

Skirt Selfie!
And here is the finished skirt! Super soft and comfy and requires me to kick my feet out when walking.
Lounging in my Skirt
Lounging in my comfy skirt.

I’ve already settled on the next skirt I’ll be making from the book. I’ll post pictures and a write up when that happens.  In the meantime, please enjoy the playlist I put together for the skirt:

  1. Not an Addict – K’s Choice
  2. Got You Where I Want You – The Flys
  3. Creep – Radiohead
  4. Linger – The Cranberries
  5. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
  6. Soul to Squeeze – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  7. Who Will Save Your Soul – Jewel
  8. Building a Mystery – Sarah McLachlan
  9. Celebrity Skin – Hole
  10. Santa Monica – Everclear
  11. I Don’t Need a Hero – Concrete Blonde
  12. Happy Phantom – Tori Amos


Making it Work: January Earnings

I promised I would make it a regular thing to blog about how much, or more accurately, how little we’re making from our creative endeavors.  To that end, I present the report on our January earnings.

Etsy Sales $26.42
E-book Royalties $1.73
Midwinter Convention $284.47
Total $312.62

The numbers reflect our net earnings.  In the case of Etsy sales that means less shipping and various selling fees.  With regards to Midwinter, the net takes into account expenses for the booth, for getting to the convention, hotel costs, etc.  On the plus side, we made almost three times what we did in December.  On the down side, no one is getting rich off of this.  I’d say we shouldn’t quit our day jobs, but …

We are closer to our goal of getting a new fan for the Jeep, though, almost halfway there.  And we have a convention coming up in March that promises to be more lucrative.  We’re only a month into this whole grand scheme, so I can’t really say if sticking to one or two large conventions a year is feasible.  We may have to add in more events, or I might have to open up to commissions again.  Or, we might have to put in a better effort to market our books, and finish the one that is in the works.

I did add a page to this site for e-book design services.

As always, we continue on.  February is the shortest month and we’re making the most of it that we can.  I’ll keep updating our monetary progress as the year unwinds.


Stalking the Epilogue

Posting about Mrs. de Winter and addressing her openly yesterday was nerve wracking.  My natural response to conflict is to curl up and make myself as small of a target as possible.  Bringing this issue to light had as good of a chance of escalating matters as it did of resolving it.  Add in the issues I’ve been having over the last few months with feeling safe, and I was a bit of a wreck when I hit post.

Several friends offered suggestions on how to deal with this: mainly to document everything.  One, Priya, advised letting Stephan’s ex know what was going on.  I really didn’t think that would help.  Honestly, I was stuck in a mindset of fear and anger that all my months of work to feel safe had been undermined by someone I had never met.  Writing that post was as much as I was capable of.   And when the commenting started up again, I felt I had made a horrible mistake.  Rather than nipping the unpleasantness in the bud, I had fed the troll.

That’s when Stephan stepped in.

As can be guessed from his Viking Dad moniker, Stephan doesn’t shrink from confrontation.  Instead he puffs out his chest and says, “Come at me, bro.”  He wrote Mrs. de Winter, her husband (who we had believed to be the author of one of the comments*), and his ex.  What followed was an unpleasant back and forth that established:

  1. Mrs. de Winter has no desire for a resolution with Stephan.
  2. Nonetheless he shouldn’t hear from her again (although whether this means she’ll never comment here again, or e-mail him was not made clear).
  3. Stephan’s ex had no idea this was going on. She offered that she thinks Mrs. de Winter is acting out of love and did offer to talk to her friend and clear some things up.
  4. Like many people, Mrs. de Winter doesn’t have a good understanding on what constitutes libel.  Posting, say, that there is a warrant out for someone’s arrest when there is no such warrant is a libelous statement.
  5. Mrs. de Winter’s husband doesn’t care “what Stone Age gods” we worship.  This actually has nothing to do with the situation.  I just thought the religious bigotry (coming from out of nowhere in the conversation) is funny in its confusion.**

It is clear that this will most likely never end.  Mrs. de Winter and her friends will probably continue to read this blog.  There’s not much I can do about that.  I considered the idea of quitting; just stop posting to the site and retreat once again to the safety of Facebook.  If I can face the challenges of going against the norm when it comes to other aspects of my life, I should be up to the challenge of doing so under the scrutiny of someone who harbors my family ill will.  Stephan and my friends have my back, which makes a difference.

So this is less of an epilogue as an unsatisfactory denouement, I guess.  I promise the next post from me will be much more fun, and much more satisfying.


*It turned out we were wrong on that point.  Apparently, Mrs. de Winter recruited friends to read and comment on the site.

**If our religious practices are so offensive just how upset would he be if he knew, for example, I’m bisexual, or that we’re pro-choice, or that we’re practically socialists in our politics. The list of ways in which our beliefs go against mid-Western norms is long and varied after all.

How to talk about your stalker when she isn’t stalking you

I have dealt with my fair share of unpleasantness online.  As a publisher there was rape writer: an author who sent graphically written rape scenes to Miscellanea.  At least l think they were meant for that market, he never included a cover letter or anything else to indicate it was a submission.  There was the writer whose cover letter consisted of “I’ve been doing some writing since I’ve been institutionalized.”  There was the man who became angry when I didn’t respond to his offers and suggestions on how I could improve my business plan.  That one I had to eventually block.

Offline I have dealt with what I called my convention creepers: men in my LARP community who had a hard time distinguishing between their in character interactions with me and the out of character reality.  I could tell them, “Hey, your attentions are making me uncomfortable, so could you please back off?”  Most of the time that worked.  And the couple of times it didn’t, Stephan would step in and scare them off.

Last night two comments were posted to this site.  They came from two different e-mail addresses and under two different names, but the content was similar, and familiar.  I showed them to Stephan who laughed and rolled his eyes.  Mrs. de Winter was back in our lives.

Mrs. de Winter* first came to my attention in 2008, I think.  I was on LiveJournal back then, posting about costuming and sewing.  I saw a new profile looking at my journal … a lot.  These were weekly, sometimes daily visits.  It seemed a bit weird, but I didn’t give it too much thought until one day when Stephan saw her profile picture.  “That’s Mrs. de Winter,” he said.  Who?  It turned out that my new #1 fan was a friend of Stephan’s ex.  What had just been weird became a little concerning.  “She’s into fashion, maybe that’s why she’s reading your journal,” Stephan suggested, trying, I think, to make me feel better.  Maybe.  In case not, however, I blocked her from commenting on my journal.  It was a precaution against my space becoming a drama-soaked battle ground.

Over the years it became clear that Mrs. de Winter wasn’t reading my journal for my thoughts on corsets and publishing.  The first place I mentioned my pregnancy was in an entry there.  A day later Stephan’s ex wrote to him about it.  I began to censor myself, not posting as much about upcoming conventions, especially ones we attended in Michigan.  Part of me felt I was making a big deal about nothing.  So she was reading my journal, so what?

But she was reading my journal because Stephan didn’t have an accessible internet presence.  His Facebook, like my own, is locked down.  For years the only way Mrs. de Winter could get any information about him was through me.  I stopped using LiveJournal a couple of times, letting months, even years, pass between entries.  No matter how long the hiatus, though, within a week or so of posting, she would be back, peeking into a part of my life that I had chosen to make public.

Over the years it is clear that this vicarious creeping has affected the way I interact online.  I think twice about what personal information I post online.  I abandoned LiveJournal altogether.  I don’t post pictures of my children’s faces in public because I don’t want her knowing what they look like.

Last night, reading the two angry comments, I was nauseous and near tears.  The content wasn’t aimed at me (except in the most oblique way), nonetheless it was upsetting.  This site is supposed to be a safe, positive place.  With two comments that safety was shredded.  I am once again reconsidering posting our upcoming events.  I will be telling our daughter again that no one but her parents are ever to pick her up from school.  And again, a part of me thinks I am overreacting.  To hold onto this much animosity after seven years, though, is irrational.  Who knows how much further she would take things, given the chance?

Blocking her, ignoring her, deleting her comments, none of it has made a difference after seven years.  And so, I’m taking a different approach this snowy morning.

Dear Mrs. de Winter: I don’t know you, nor do you know me.  We’ve never met.  Never even exchanged a word.  But you’ve been a part of my life for almost a decade.  I want you to know that I hold you no animosity, no anger, no hatred.  I don’t know you, so how could I have any feelings for you?  I do feel fear though.  Your attentions makes me feel unsafe, it makes me fear for my children.  All you have done all these years has been to watch me, and it scares me.

Please know none of your comments will ever see the light of day on this site.  Comment moderation was turned on when it was first set up and I will never approve anything you write.  This is to your benefit, as one of your posts last night was libelous.  I have, however, taken screenshots of the comments, and will do so with any future ones, to hold on to in case I need to build a legal case.  I do not wish for it to come to that, however.

I do believe you think you are being a good friend.  Your loyalty is commendable, but any hurt Stephan may have caused is between him and his ex.  You are overstepping your bounds.  It is said that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Perhaps it is time to let your anger go.

Please leave us alone.

I wish nothing but the best for you.

Blessed be.



*Not her real name.

Setting Fire to the Past

I’ve made so many moves over the years it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Besides the physical moves I’ve made—from Wyoming to Chicago and various suburbs thereof—I’ve made personal, emotional and relationship changes.  It is surprising how much distance one can cover without ever having to take a step.

Through all these moves I’ve carried a trunk with me.  It was a high school graduation present from my grandparents.  The trunk has been a bench, a footstool, and a table, as well as being the holder of those things I couldn’t bear to toss, but had no need to be out in the open.  Journals, letters, cards, old ids, and other ephemera.  For the past couple of years it has sat under my desk, home to the garbage can and a laptop that I don’t use any more.  I haven’t opened it, partly because I haven’t had anything to squirrel away (e-mail, Facebook and WordPress has digitized much of my correspondence and thoughts); but also because it is full.

In mid-December I dragged the trunk out.  I was looking for a notebook, and was certain it had to be there.  This happens on occasion. I’ll be seized by a need to find something and I tear apart the house in search of it.  Usually, I fail to find whatever Lost Ark I’m chasing; if it were still around I would have found it easily.  I’m then stuck with a mess and a heavy weight of frustration that my quarry managed to escape the nets of my organization zeal.

This time was no different.  The notebook, and the information therein, was nowhere to be seen.  In my digging through the trunk, I flipped through the dozen-plus journals there.  They were varied: cloth covered ones bought in a three pack from Sam’s Club in the early 90s, spiral bound ones from Borders, “leather” covered ones, five subject Mead notebooks, even a manila envelope stuffed full of loose-leaf paper.  This represented more than a decade of my life: from about 1995 to 2005.   There were some random pages from earlier and later, but the bulk of my regular journaling ended shortly after Charlotte was born.

As I flipped through the pages all I read was misery.  Every randomly picked page was a chronicle of how desperately unhappy I was.  Did I write only when I was upset? Or did I only write of my unhappiness because that’s all there was? I think a little more of the former than the latter, but there was no denying that what I had committed to the pages was unpleasant.  I wanted to reach out to my past self and tell her that it was going to get better … in a way.  I can’t reach her, though.  She is in the past and trying to cast back would only slow down the momentum I have gained.

But I didn’t have to keep carrying the millstone of unhappiness.  What did I gain by keeping these journals around? Evidence of my unhappiness during that time?  Did I really need it?  I had my memories, if ever I wanted to revisit them.  Which, again, wasn’t going to help me move forward.  I had learned all I could from that time.  There was nothing more these journals could tell me about myself.

I grabbed two cardboard boxes and filled them.  The letters, cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous bits and bobs stayed.  The journals went.  For the first time in years there was room in the trunk.  Room for more pleasant keepsakes: love notes from Stephan, birthday cards from my children, perhaps even a letter to my future self, telling her that I am okay.  She can let me go and move on.

The first of January I took the journals out to the fire pit and burned them.  The day was sunny, if cold, and windy.  Despite the helpful nature of the weather, burning a decade’s worth of misery isn’t easy, even when it is bound in paper.  You can’t just set fire to your past and walk away.  You have to tend to it, or else it won’t be fully destroyed.  Blackened bits of paper constantly tried to escape, flying high and forcing me to run around the yard to catch them.  Some were still burning and had to be stomped out.  I had to open up the journals with a poker to make sure all the pages burned.  I got a surprising, and disturbing, insight into just what goes into a book burning.

The whole process took three or four hours.  As I worked I kept thinking, “This is who I was, but it is not who I am now.”  As the paper turned to ash, I felt the truth of it more and more. I returned to the house cold, smelling of smoke, my hair peppered with ashes.  I can’t say if I have completely divorced myself from the misery of those past years.  However, I won’t have those words sitting at my feet, their ambient unpleasantness influencing me.  And if that isn’t a solution, it’s at least a start.


The value of solitude

The pressures on all sides to bond make those who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone uneasy and even guilt-ridden in their situation.  Even worse they reduce the possibility of success for the relationships which they constantly promote. If, as we are told, our lives can be fulfilled only by our intimate attachments to others, then those attachments are from the beginning under a weight of responsibility that cripples their growth.  Even more importantly, this current insistence on relationships not only spoils our chances of relating—it gets in the way of our discovering the value, perhaps the necessity, of solitude.

Peter France, Hermits

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Patterns

Cross-stitch was one of my first hobbies.  I’ve never gotten into crochet and knitting (I could never get my stitches tight enough), and sewing came much later.  I enjoyed picking out new skeins of thread (back when one could buy four for a dollar at the local Pamida).  They were little brightly colored threads of potential.  Winding them on little cardboard bobbins was incredibly soothing.  The limited number of stitches and the structure of the Aida cloth were less intimidating to me than freehand embroidery (I could never get my stitches even enough to look right).

At some point I stopped stitching.  I got busy with the sewing, and then the publishing, and then the stress of just getting through the day.  Sitting down and working on something just for myself seemed indulgent and irresponsible.  The boxes of thread, the Aida cloth and cross-stitch books got pushed to the back of shelves to make room for bolts of cloth and serger thread and depression.

Hestia Pouch
Design cross-stitched on linen, turned into a pouch to hold items and hang over the door.

In November, as we reorganized the garage into a workshop, I found all of my cross-stitch supplies.  They were dusty and wrinkled, but no worse for wear.  I sat down one evening with some linen and waste canvas and my Celtic Cross Stitch book by Gail Lawther.  I had an idea to create something I could hang over the front door, a pouch I could fill with herbs, stones, medallions, whatever represented to me safety and love and protection.  I have an affinity for Hestia, who is often represented by a circle, and Stephan has a strong connection to his Celtic roots.  I picked a design that was circular and got to work.

The actual stitching took a week or so, working in the evening.  The whole time I had to remind myself that it was okay to take this time for myself.   And as the pattern emerged, as I looked from design to fabric and back again, as my hands worked, I stitched pieces of myself back together.  Those parts of me that had been torn away because I felt I didn’t have the right to self-care were reattached with careful rows of Xs.  Breathe, I told myself.  This is okay.  You get to do something solely for the joy of it.

And it worked.  It was soothing to concentrate on the rhythm of the needle going in and out of the fabric.  I had to give all my attention to keeping the thread from tangling, to the number of stitches, to the tautness of the fabric.  There was no room for other concerns.  I made sure to tell Stephan several times how much I was enjoying this one simple act, to reinforce the good feelings.

Hecate's Wheel Cross-stitch Decoration
Hecate’s Wheel cross-stitched on my bag in green and red. Design from—Pagan-Symbols/Hecate-s-Wheel-Pattern-Chart.htm

After the pouch, I embellished my bag with a design of Hecate’s Wheel.  I started having issues with leaving the house last year.   Not so much agoraphobia, as anxiety about being around people.  I thought that carrying a reminder of Hecate, a goddess that I associate with strength and protection, would help with my feelings.  I am taking medication and am in therapy, both have helped with this particular issue (among others), and I think that the cross-stitch has aided in my healing.

Me being me, though, I started playing around with the idea of creating my own cross-stitch patterns.  I’m also working on another book with Stephan, and I am looking to incorporate the cross-stitch into that.  To those ends, I pulled out some graph paper and started with a topic that seemed easy enough: the Elder Futhark.  The runes are all lines, with definite proportions.  I wanted to design something that could be repurposed for various projects, and thought of all the alphabet samplers that one finds in various cross-stitch project books.  I researched various viking design elements for the borders.  The actual drafting took several weeks of graph work and then stitching out the designs to see how they looked.  In the end I drafted two samplers, both on the small side so that they can be completed in a single sitting.

The first design you can see above, the runes are four stitches high by one or two stitches wide (depending on the rune).  The finished design is approximately 2 1/4″ tall by 3 1/4″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth.  It has been worked with two threads: the runes in red and the border in red and black.

The second design (below) is even smaller, the runes two stitches high and one or two stitches wide (again depending on the rune).  The finished design is approximately 1 1/8″ tall by 2 1/8″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth.  It has also been worked with two threads in the black and red colors.

Elder Furthark Cross-stitch Sampler Small
Worked in two threads over 14 ct. white Aida cloth, this sampler features the Elder Futhark runes and a Viking inspired border design.

Both designs are done in back-stitch (making them less cross-stitch patterns, but that’s the term I’m going with).  The stitches include half and quarter stitches, so you have to work between the weave at some points.

I used the program KG-Chart LE to make the charts.  I will definitely be buying the program as it very easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do.  I highly recommend checking it out if you want to make your own patterns.  You can view the designs by clicking on the links below:

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Sampler Large Pattern

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Sampler Small Pattern

If you like this project and want to see more, help support this site. You can buy something my Etsy store. Or check out our first two books, available from